Depression, Mental Health, TV, young adult fiction

The Importance of 13 Reasons Why

When I started this blog, I had three goals in mind:

  1. To share my work, to offer excerpts, sneak peeks, share short stories, poetry, whatever.
  2. To share other authors in hopes of bringing them a bit of new exposure, to partake in the community that I have come to love.
  3. To connect with readers and share issues that I am passionate about.

In fact, my first post was dealing with #3. It’s a hard one, though. Where do you draw the line? What thoughts do you choose to share and what thoughts should you keep private? The general dinner table rule is to avoid politics and religion, and in my professional world I try to keep those thoughts to myself, but this new issue that has come to the spotlight is not one I will choose to keep quiet on. A dialogue has been started and I want to continue it.

Many of you, by now, have probably watched the Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why. Many of you have probably read the book. I have not had the pleasure of reading the book as of now, but I will tell you it is very high on my TBR list.

There’s a lot of controversy over the subject matter and how it was handled. There are people that have said the show portrays Hannah Baker as a seeker of revenge, that her tapes were meant to inflict pain and guilt onto those who survived her, those who she felt contributed to her ultimate suicide.

I don’t agree that it was about revenge at all. In fact, early on in the binging I remember saying, “talk about taking a suicide note to a whole new level.” A note is something we expect to accompany a suicide, is it not? Those left behind have questions, they want to know why. Hannah simply explained why.

Each person on her tape she had an intimate connection with. Each person let her down. In many instances, it wasn’t any of their faults alone. That’s why it was important every person listened to every tape. It wasn’t Alex or Jessica or even Bryce that singularly contributed to her decision to take her life. It was a culmination of all those events, twisting in her mind, reminding her that happiness was always just out of reach. Each person on her tapes effectively destroyed a part of her. Sure a lot of people go through similar situations and they don’t kill themselves, but there are a lot that do.

It’s been said, even by the creators, that Hannah could have cared more, could have tried harder. While I don’t disagree, it is a tragic reality in our society. People slip through the cracks. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Let me make one thing clear, I DO NOT CONDONE HANNAH’S DECISION TO END HER LIFE. But it happens. We shouldn’t be sugar coating this issue, or dancing around it. 13 Reasons Why calls the issue out, demands a conversation. So, let’s have a conversation, why don’t we?

I know depression. I’ve seen it in those I love, have seen it in myself. I have lived with it, battled it, struggled with it even when things are going my way. I’m a big supporter of the “fake it until you make it” strategy. Honestly, what else are you going to do?

I remember I wrote an article about combating depression a few years ago. There were a lot of suggestions on my list that often offend those who are in the midst of their own battle, but as someone who has been there, you know what I say? You have to have something. Hannah, at the end, had nothing. She’d been broken down on so many levels, each person effectively destroying a part of her until there was nothing left. She had no safety zone, each place that could have been a sanctuary for her was taken from her, including her own mind.

Hannah Baker deserved better. A lot of people deserve better.

Not only does a conversation need to be had about suicide and finding help, but a conversation needs to be started on the butterfly effect, which was mentioned in the show. We need to be talking about how to be kind to our fellow humans, how to take responsibility for our actions. We need to rediscover what it means to be a community. It’s that human connection that will help when all else fails. That knowledge that someone is there, that someone would care, that someone’s life would not be improved by one’s lack of existence. Like Alex said, “Why not put up posters telling people not to be an *******”.

The next issue I’ve had with some articles I’ve read on the show deals with Hannah’s final act. Why show the suicide? People are saying that now people who are contemplating suicide know how to do it. Are you freaking kidding me? If someone is really seriously considering that option, they have plenty of resources to find out HOW to get the job done. If anyone thinks this information isn’t readily available to someone seeking the information, hop on over to google and see for yourself. It’s my opinion that this was an important scene. People contemplating the idea need to see what they are going to be leaving behind. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem that can’t be reversed. It’s messy. It’s heartbreaking. Sure, it was a difficult thing to see, but shouldn’t it be? If we’re going for a real, truthful dialogue, shouldn’t the whole ugly truth be laid out?

We’ve become a society of safe zones and trigger warnings. You know what I say to that? Life is messy. Life is hard. If we can’t start a dialogue that focuses on the hard, ugly truth, then we will forever be a society that hides behind the light and fluffy and more and more people will continue to fall through the cracks.

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